25 Ways To Celebrate Your Galentines and Valentines (Part 1)

Whether you’re celebrating your Valentine, Galentine, or really anyone that you enjoy, we’ve compiled a list of date ideas — platonic or romantic! — that will knock your next park adventure, well, out of the park:

1. Catch sunset at the Highland Park Reservoir

The Overlook at Schenley Park is a fan favorite for sunset spotters. Take a stroll around the Highland Park Reservoir, though, to see the sun set betwixt trees and the Giuseppe Moretti entrance statues in the peaceful entrance garden.

highlandsunset

2. Ride a bicycle built for two on Pocusset Street

Don’t have the balance to reenact that timeless Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid scene with your sweetie? Riding a tandem bicycle (or any bike, really) down the biker- and walker-only Pocusset Street in Schenley Park is the next best thing.

caterpillar

Knock, knock!

3. Hunt for fairy doors 

In Frick and Mellon Park, Allegheny Commons, and many other parks are teensy little doors for the resident fairies. Find and knock on them to see if anyone’s home.

4. Gaze at stars in Riverview Park

The iconic Allegheny Observatory opens its doors weekly to star-struck astronomers for free tours, lectures, and open houses at this incredible space. On clear nights during these events, the 100-year-old-and-older telescopes are generally open for use.

5. Gaze at stars in Mellon Park

Whatever the weather, you can always see 150 stars peeking up from the lawn of Mellon Park’s Walled Garden thanks to 7:11AM  11.20.1979  79º55’W 40º27’N, a memorial art installation.

mellonparkstars

6. Read Shakespeare in a Shakespearean garden

Whilst we speak of Mellon Park, o’er the hill of the Walled Garden thou must recite verses when alighting in the Shakespearean Garden.

7. Make a snowman or snowbeast

This is an anywhere, anytime activity. Let your creativity run wild. Just try not to sing that one song from Frozen when you’re out there; it’s contagious.

telescope

Telescope in Allegheny Observatory in Riverview Park.

8. See the cityscape from Emerald View Park

The Mount Washington overlooks get a lot of love (deservedly), but seeing Downtown peek in and out from the undulating trails of Emerald View Park is always a rewarding experience.

9. Take a trip around the world with a visit to the Plaza

Immerse yourself in international flavors with the fares served in Schenley Plaza. Your hankerings for Chinese, Greek, Belgian, or the ever-changing cuisines at Conflict Kitchen are all conveniently in one square acre.

10. Traverse the tufas

The solid bridges along the lower and upper Panther Hollow trails in Schenley Park, made of a limestone variety (tufa) and built by W.P.A. crews, are straight from a storybook, covered in moss, lichens, and now snow. See these and other old-timey Works Progress projects sprinkled throughout the park.

tufas

Tufa under snow.

11. Latch a love lock and throw away the key

Make a statement with your sweetie by adding your own lock to the Schenley Bridge and throwing away the key — just as you do it in the proper waste receptacle. (Forgetting the combination also acceptable.)

 12. Tour the neighborhood, visit parkside cultural establishments

While you’re in the neighborhood, drop by the Carnegie Museums, the Frick Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory, the National Aviary, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, and many other must-see institutions around the parks.

13. Think spring

Send warm thoughts to family, friends, or someone you’re flirting with this Valentine’s Day with the gift of daffodils in the parks. Make a donation of $25, and we’ll plant 50 daffodils in the park of your choice — and send your someone special a personalized e-card to boot. Get started here.

 

Check back next week for the second half of our park date ideas. Share your inspired date ideas below or through Facebook and Twitter!

XOXO,

The Matchmakers at the Parks Conservancy

Parks Are Gyms: Your Guide to Working Out

In the parks, we have a whole different approach to working out.

Smelly, sweaty gym socks? We’ve got blooming daffodils.
Recycled air? How about a cool breeze and wind through the trees.
Beige walls? Try chirping robins, rolling clouds, and kids riding bikes.

For the low, low membership fee of $0.00, you can sweat it out all day every day in the parks. Train for your first marathon, conquer hills on the bike sitting in your basement — just get out and get moving! Here are some ideas to start your new workout regiment in the parks:

taichi

Tai chi in Mellon Square. Photo: John Altdorfer.

Tai chi in Mellon Square
Some call this Chinese traditional practice meditation in motion. Originally designed for practicing self-defense, this class is a splendid and graceful way to balance, strengthen, and de-stress. Take a class in the Modernist masterpiece park, Mellon Square, or in Schenley Plaza, for free all spring and summer. Schedule to be posted here.

Yoga in Schenley Plaza
Breathe in, breathe out on the Emerald Lawn in Schenley Plaza during these bi-weekly yoga classes. Bring your own mat or borrow one when you arrive at these free, open classes taught by expert instructors. Schedule to be posted here.

Disc golf in Schenley Park
Spread across rolling hills and sprinkled through shaded woods are 18 metal baskets that make up the Schenley Park Disc Golf Course. This go-at-your-own-pace course is an effective arm workout and a healthy walk, the length of which depends on how well you aim your shots. Find directions here.

Volleyball in Highland Park
Recently renovated, the sand volleyball courts in Highland Park are an ace place to work out while working on your tan. Find directions here.

5115633730_c9d39fe870_b

Biking in the park. Photo: Melissa McMasters.

Bike in Riverview Park
The popular Riverview Loop is all about the gluts. The topography of this two-mile loop is a challenge but takes you past amazing spots like the Chapel Shelter, Allegheny Observatory, and gardens throughout Riverview. See the Bike Pittsburgh bike map here.

Tennis in Frick and Arsenal parks
Serve it up on the red clay courts in Frick Park or the newly refinished courts in Arsenal Park for two unique playing experiences. If you’re game, there are a plethora of clinics and tournaments held on the many courts throughout the parks. Click here for the Frick Park Clay Court Tennis Club.

Have your own workout recommendations? Leave them in the comments below!

Giving Thanks: Janet of All Trades and 2013 Volunteers

Ten minutes into my interview with Janet Pazzynski, I fully realized why a friend of hers urged her to write a how-to book on retirement.

Janet, AKA Janet of All Trades, weeding in Riverview

Janet’s ever-expanding resume is impressive: graphic designer, actress, unofficial Riverview Park tour guide, Pittsburgh lover, gardener, and volunteer, among many other things. Her last title, volunteer, being the reason for her visit to the Parks Conservancy office one cold Tuesday morning.

“It started with one perennial garden in Riverview Park.”

Janet first began her extensive volunteer career with the Parks Conservancy by simply asking to help. Janet dreamed of being a gardener while working at a telephone company, and after retiring at an early age,  Janet asked if she could help the Parks Conservancy with the planting of a flower bed in Riverview Park.

“If you’re planting this bed, you gotta weed it,” a volunteer leader told her, jokingly.

“Can I!?”

Janet’s sign in front of the English knot garden

Little did anyone know, Janet would eventually take on the herculean task of helping to look after 12 flower beds in Riverview Park. Working with Parks Conservancy horticulturist, Angela Yuele, Janet personally adopted each bed one by one, working on them once a week from the first buds of spring until deadheading season in the fall. Janet also lent her skills at digital design by creating a sign for Riverview’s recently established English knot garden

Janet says that caring for the park gardens has just become a part of her schedule; she goes out on her own every week to weed the beds through the summer months. “It’s therapeutic,” she says. Riverview Park has always been a part of her life (sitting with her for an hour, you can learn the complete history of the park and all of its hidden secrets, like where to find the old zoo), and she says it’s the best feeling when neighbors and park visitors tell her how beautifully the gardens are growing.

Because of her experience in Riverview, Janet recently took a position as a professional gardener — something she’s been wanting to do for a long time. But don’t worry, she won’t abandon her beds come next spring.

We give a big thanks to Janet for all of her work helping our park gardens blossom. And next year, when you visit Blossom Lane, the knot garden, and the flower beds in Riverview Park, don’t forget to tell the rock star community member tackling weeds just how gorgeous the gardens look. 

Volunteers 2013

Volunteers like Janet help us accomplish an extraordinary amount of important work in the parks. This year, volunteers came out in record numbers to really make an impact in our park communities. Here are the numbers we crunched for 2013, our biggest year yet:

1,570 volunteers came out to work in the parks

1,300 trees and shrubs were planted

Volunteers completed 5,500 hours of work  

Volunteer hours amounted to $119,000

(based on national volunteer hour rates)

At the Parks Conservancy, we’re giving thanks this week and every week for our tireless, enthusiastic, and passionate volunteers. We can’t wait to see everyone again in the parks next year!

Lauryn Stalter, Riverview Park enthusiast (thanks to Janet’s recommendations of this video and this video) for The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.   

Volunteers: A reason to give thanks

What’s in Bloom – A Celebration of Summer Flowers

Highland Park Entry Garden

Asiatic lily (Lilium ‘Apeldoorn’)

Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii Six Hills Giant)

Coral bells (Heuchera x brizoides)

Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum)

Yarrow (Achillea ‘Parker’s Gold’)

 

Mellon Park Walled Garden

Astilbe (Astilbe)

Daylily (Hemorocallis ‘Happy Returns’)

Hardy geranium (Geranium x ‘Brookside’)

Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)

Lavendar (Lavandula angustifolia)

 

Riverview Chapel Shelter

Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’)

Tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora)

Yarrow (Achillea)

 

Schenley Park Visitor Center

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’)

What’s in Bloom – May 2013

Seems like we skipped over spring and went straight into summer. That’s okay, it just means it’s time for some late spring/early summer blooms! Check out what our horticulturist, Angea Yuele, and gardener, Jaclyn Bruschi, have been up to in our May 2013 What’s in Bloom.

Highland Park Entry Garden

Catmint ‘Six Hills Giant’

Baptisia

Blue Starflower

Columbine

Dianthus ‘Zing’

Iris Species

Iris ‘Cranberry Crush’

Peony ‘Edulis Superba’

Peony ‘Fairbanks’

Salvia ‘Eastfriesland’

Mellon Park Walled Garden

Dianthus ‘Firewitch’

Hardy Geranium ‘Brookside’

Peony ‘Festiva Mazima’

Rhododendron ‘Album’

Riverview Park Chapel Shelter

Golden Alexanders

Heirloom Purple Iris

Salvia ‘May Night’

Schenley Plaza

Salvia ‘May Night’

Yarrow ‘Paprika’

Now that you feel fully inspired to go frolicking amongst the flowers in Pittsburgh’s gardens, check out what else we’ve been up to in our new spring 2013 newsletter, the Voice.

What’s in Bloom – April 2013

Winter may be holding on with every last breath, but signs of spring are popping up all over Pittsburgh’s parks. It’s time for our monthly What’s in Bloom series showcasing the park’s seasonal gardens. Bursts of color are polka-dotting the landscape and our horticulturist, Angela Yuele, has captured every bountiful bloom.

Highland Park Entry Garden

Daffodils and Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa)

Hyacinth ‘Jan Bos’

Mellon Park Walled Garden

Daffodil ‘Tete-a-Tete’

Lenten rose (Heleborus orientalis)

Riverview Park

Daffodil species

Daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ at the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter

Magnolia blooming

Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center

Blue hyacinth and pink tulips

Schenley Plaza

Daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths

Daffodils

Mixed daffodils

Species tulip ‘Lady Jane’ and white daffodils

Various daffodils

We’re always looking for help with our gardening projects. Our seasonal weeding Tuesdays at Mellon Park Walled Garden kick-off on May 14 and Weeding Wednesdays at Highland Park Entry Garden begin May 1. For more information, visit our Horticultural Volunteer Activities page or email volunteer@pittsburghparks.org.

Learn more about The Daffodil Project and how you can help plant new bulbs throughout the regional parks.

Not Your Average Garden – Riverview Park’s New Knot Garden

While strolling through the entry garden at Riverview Park, some may have noticed a new addition to the area. An herbal knot garden now occupies the 10×10 empty flower bed that once lay waiting to be awakened. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Horticulturist, Angela Yuele, wanted to fill the space with something unique and try her hand at her first knot garden.

“The Riverview Visitor Center has an English cottage feel, so I thought it would be the perfect space for an English knot garden.”

Knot gardens got their start in English and French tradition meant to mirror the pattern of British embroidery of the time.  They created a more formal, yet inviting ambiance to gardens and provided a feast for the senses with their aromatic herbs and flowers. The intricate gardens are typically laid-out in a square or rectangular shape and require meticulous clipping and maintenance to keep their structure and form. As with the case of the knot garden at Riverview Park, contrasting color can provide the illusion of interlocking knotwork.

Angela carefully planned the knot garden to not only be visually appealing, but also a space that sparks visitor’s sense of smell with the wafting fragrance of earthy herbs. The garden is framed by oregano with lavender dotting the outer four corners and a line of chives standing guard along one side. The intertwining knots are made of common thyme and lemon thyme to give a slight color variation to enhance the illusion. The knot garden is topped off with a rosemary bush as the central focal point.

“The knot garden is still in training, but filled in well for only a couple months of growth,” Angela said.

Park visitors are more than welcome to pick the herbs. One of our dedicated volunteers has already used some to spice up her spaghetti sauce. After visiting the Riverview Park knot garden, be sure to check out the Elizabethan Herb Garden in Mellon Park maintained by the Western Pennsylvania Unit of the Herb Society of America.

 
 
 
 
 Looking for ways you can get involved with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy? Check out our upcoming Volunteer Days or consider making a gift online